Beauty and the geek

The Age was full of articles last Thursday on “Beauty and the Geek”. In one of them the producer claimed to be breaking the stereotypes by showing that the geeks were not totally devoid of social skills, and some of the beauties had more than 2 brain cells to rub together. Which is all very fine, I’m sure. But riddle me this: why, after all the incarnations of this show around the world, has no-one done one where the beauties are men and the geeks are girls?

Believe me, there is no shortage of geeky girls. I could find a large bunch up in my personal contacts list alone. And there are plenty of himbos around that would fit the bill, so it’s clearly not a shortage of talent. It could be as superficial as “no straight guy likes to be called beautiful,” but surely they could come up with an appropriately catchy title if that truly is a problem.

My suspicion…no, my fear is that very few of us actually believe in intelligent women. Smart people with more brains than social skills? Clearly men.

If I pitched a show that contained a super smart investigator, who is mega rich, likes a fling with the odd dangerous suspect, runs about saving the day in between glasses of expensive champagne and enjoying a congratulatory bonk with the rescueee afterwards, how many people would picture the protagonist as female? In fact, that’s a reasonably accurate description of Phryne Fisher, the wonderful, gorgeous and extremely female protagonist of Kerry Greenwood’s detective series, set in Melbourne in the 1920s.

We are not nearly as far from our 1950s roots as we would like to believe, even those of us who loathe John Howard and everything he weaseled for. The following conversation is all too common:

“I went to see the doctor.”

“Oh? What did he say?”

I believe a similar effect is evident in our attitude to friendship between the sexes. I have lost count of the number of times I have said “My best friend is visiting from San Fransisco”, and had people respond “How long is she staying?”

Even now, in 2009, for your best friend to be of the opposite gender creates, at the very least, a momentary shock. A jarring note. A sense that the world has shifted slightly out of alignment. Many people immediately seem to wonder: “how does your husband feel about that?” Which wouldn’t arise for a moment were my friend female.

We are still astonishingly hung up on gender stereotypes. On the things men do and women don’t. On the stuff women are good at and men are not. We like to think that we are over all that, and that we can all do whatever we want, unhampered by gender myths. But we have such a long way to go. Show me “Beauty and the geek” where the geeks are girls and… well, I still won’t watch it. But I will feel better about how far we have come.

Must go, it’s nearly time for dinner and someone has to cook it. Oh, look. My husband already has. Maybe the 50s are further away than I thought.

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One thought on “Beauty and the geek

  1. Kerryn Davison

    Have you considered that rather than it being a bias towards brainiacs being men that it might be a perception of it being more difficult to find brainiac women without reasonable social skills? The brainiac women in your dream show may still have better social understanding than the himbos and therefore have little to learn from them – not a very interesting show ;-)

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